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US-Iran envoy says Bahrain to host Gulf maritime security conference

US-Iran envoy says Bahrain to host Gulf maritime security conference

LONDON: The US said Bahrain will host a maritime security conference to ensure freedom of navigation in the region’s waters. 

The comments come after Washington said last week it was seeking partners for a military coalition to protect the busy shipping lanes off Iran and Yemen.

Brian Hook, the special envoy to Iran, said 65 countries would attend the event, Al-Arabiya reported, which comes amid a heightened threat for shipping in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula.

Several oil tankers have been attacked since May near the Strait of Hormuz - the narrow passage between the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf, which serves as one of the world’s main conduits for crude oil. Iran has been blamed for the attacks, which many view as a calculated response to increased economic and military pressure from the US over Tehran’s nuclear program and destabilizing activities in the Middle East.

Tensions increased further when British forces helped seize an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, which London said was attempting to deliver oil to Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime.

Iran threatened to retaliate and last week a British warship had to aid a UK-owned tanker when Iranian vessels tried to block the ship as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

On Wednesday the UK's defense ministry said the reason it was deploying a third warship to the Gulf was “to protect UK interests and ensure freedom of navigation.” 

Meanwhile, mystery continued to surround a UAE-based taker, which stopped transmitting tracking data late on Saturday after passing through the Strait of Hormuz and which the US said is now located in Iranian waters.

Iran said late Tuesday that it towed a ship into its waters after the ship issued a distress call. 

A US official said the Panamanian-flagged Riah was in Iranian territorial waters, but it was not clear whether that was because Iran had seized it or rescued it.

*With Reuters

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